Lynx players were dragging during a midday practice last Thursday, so Anna DeForge called an impromptu huddle.

"Hey, let's push through, make sure we talk and work hard," DeForge said, according to teammate Shay Murphy.

"We were all kind of slacking off," said Murphy, a second-year guard.

Until DeForge spoke up, that is, which is precisely why the Lynx signed her as a free agent on Feb. 19. Team officials wanted a veteran who could show younger players how to succeed.

DeForge, a 5-10 guard, will probably start tonight when the Lynx (1-0) play their first road game of the season, at Houston (0-2).

This is DeForge's seventh WNBA season. She has played for Detroit (2000), Phoenix (2003-05) and Indiana (2006-07). Last season, she was named an All-Star for the second time and helped the Fever reach the Eastern Conference finals. She has averaged 10.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists in her career.

DeForge reported to training camp late because she was playing in Poland, but her new teammates still elected her a captain along with returning starters Seimone Augustus and Nicole Ohlde.

"The most pleasant thing so far about [DeForge] is her leadership," Lynx coach Don Zierden said. "Her teammates voted her one of the three captains, and she has taken that role with pride. Good teams police themselves."

Murphy said she calls DeForge either Sharpshooter or Hollywood. There's a reason for each nickname.

She's Sharpshooter because she led the league in three-point baskets in 2004 with 70. That's a definite need for the Lynx. Last season the team had the league's worst three-point shooting percentage, .329.

"We are not going to be last this year," DeForge said. "That is a guarantee."

The nickname Hollywood comes from the vehicle DeForge drives, an eye-catching white BMW convertible.

"She comes in with her Beamer and I go like, 'Dude, nice.' " Murphy said. "Hopefully, I am in the league that long where I can be driving fancy cars and get myself established."

DeForge is the oldest member of the Lynx; she turned 32 last month. The team acquired a second veteran, forward Kristen Rasmussen, in a March trade. She is 29, in her ninth WNBA season. But eight of their teammates are rookies or second-year players in their early 20s.

"Every day I got to push myself to keep up with these young legs," DeForge said, "so it's a good challenge for me."

DeForge understands her role, too. "If it is a tight game in the end, maybe having a couple more veterans on the team will help these young players pull out those games," DeForge said. "And, obviously, I have to keep defenses honest. I am a shooter."

Indiana and Detroit tried to sign DeForge in the offseason, but she chose the Lynx partly because the Twin Cities are only 325 miles -- a 5 1/2-hour drive -- from her parents' home in Niagara, a small town in northeastern Wisconsin.

"Mom and Dad can come at any time" to a Lynx home game, DeForge said.

Roger and Rosemary DeForge plan to. "We might miss a couple games, but both of us are retired," Rosemary DeForge said. Anna DeForge was Wisconsin's all-time high school scoring leader with 2,601 points when she graduated from Niagara in 1994 in a class of about 35. Her record stood for 10 years. She played college basketball at Nebraska and then briefly in the American Basketball League and the National Women's Basketball League.

Her WNBA career progressed slowly. She was primarily a reserve for Detroit in 2000. Houston cut her in 2001 and Charlotte in 2002 before the persistent DeForge became a starter at Phoenix.

"Anna has been in love with basketball since she was 5," her mother said. "She has such a passion for the game, and it's not dying."

Since grade school DeForge has missed only one game, in 2005 when she was with Phoenix because of an ankle sprain. "My career has been very special," DeForge said.

She plans on playing at least a couple more seasons, and she plans on making something of this one.

"[The Lynx] is an athletic team," DeForge said. "It's an up-tempo team that can push the ball, a team than can defend. We are going to be able to do a lot of things -- I don't want to give you everything."

Spoken like the veteran she is.